Since the start of conference play in early January, there is no better scoring duo in the country in the major conferences than Kentucky’s sophomore Tyler Ulis and freshman Jamal Murray. The duo combined for 53.2 percent of Kentucky’s scoring in dominating victories over Georgia and South Carolina, and for their efforts Ulis was named the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Week while Murray was tabbed the Freshman of the Week. Ulis was also bestowed as ESPN’s National Player of the Week for his 20.5 points and 10.0 assists per game effort this week.
Ulis earned his third SEC Player of the Week honor, while Murray has now garnered a team-leading three SEC Freshman of the Week honors. Ulis’ ESPN National Player of the Week honor is the team’s first of the season and the first since James Young claimed the honor on Dec. 30, 2013.
With yet another spectacular week – perhaps his finest of the season –Ulis has inserted himself into the national player of the year race. The Chicago native averaged 20.5 points, 10.0 assists and 2.5 steals in leading the Wildcats to a 2-0 week, including a victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks, who were ranked No. 20 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and in a tie with the Wildcats for first place in the SEC heading into Saturday’s game in Columbia, S.C.
Ulis started the week with 14 points, eight assists and three steals in a 34-point victory over Georgia, UK’s biggest win over the Bulldogs since Jan. 29, 1959.
That was just the opening act.
In a battle of two of the SEC’s three first-place teams and against all sorts of adversity, Ulis was simply dominant. After head coach John Calipari was ejected less than three minutes into the game, the assistant coaching staff gave Ulis the reins of the offense, and he answered with arguably the best game of his career and one of the top individual performances in the SEC this season.
Ulis notched career highs in both points (27) and assists (12) to lead UK to a 27-point win in a hostile environment. He made 7 of 14 field goals – including three as the shot-clock buzzer sounded – was 4 of 8 from behind the arc, and 9 of 11 from the free-throw line. Among the achievements Ulis notched following the South Carolina performance:
- Averaging 6.7 assists per game, Ulis is on track to break the UK single-season assists mark set by John Wall in 2009-10
- He ranks first in the SEC in assists per game (6.7) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.6). He’s 10th nationally in assists per game
- He’s one of only four players in the country averaging at least 16.7 points and at least 6.7 assists per game
- He’s now dished out four or more assists in a school-record 18 straight games
- He’s the first player in school history to have two career games of at least 20 points and at least 10 assists
- He’s now averaging 23.0 points, 8.5 assists and shooting 53.4 percent with a 6.8 assist-to-turnover ratio in UK’s four games vs. ranked opponents (in either the Associated Press Top 25 or USA Today Coaches’ Poll)
- He’s averaging 19.4 points, 7.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game in conference play with a 4.3 assist-to-turnover ratio and a 49.0-percent clip from the floor
He quite simply knows how to put the ball in the basket as indicated by another prolific-scoring performance. Murray averaged a team-high 25.0 points per game in the two dominating victories this week which included 10 made 3-pointers.
To begin the week, Murray poured in 24 points against the Bulldogs, a game in which he connected on 6 of 10 from 3-point range. He also contributed a pair of steals in UK’s most dominating defensive performance of the season that saw the Wildcats limit the visitors to a mere 22.0-percent shooting clip for the game.
Murray followed that performance with a 26-point output on the road at South Carolina in the team’s most complete win of the season. Murray teamed up with Ulis for 53 of the team’s 89 points (59.6 percent) in the win.
UK’s sharpshooter drained four more shots from long range and has now totaled 76 on the season, which ranks in the top 20 nationally and first in the SEC.
· Murray leads all SEC freshmen in scoring during league play averaging 21.3 points per game
· With at least one made 3-point shot in all 25 games this season, Murray tied Darius Miller (2010-11) as the only players to hit at least one 3-pointer in 25 straight games in the John Calipari era
· Combined with his record-breaking 35-point performance against Florida on Feb. 6, Murray has scored 85 points over a three-game span, the most for any freshman in school history
· Murray has posted 20 or more points in four consecutive outings, which pushed his season total to 10 on the year. He is just the second freshman in program history to tally 10 or more 20-point games. Brandon Knight, in 2010-11, owns the record with 14 20-point outputs
· In eight of his last 10 games, Murray has knocked down three or more 3-pointers, including games of eight, six and four over his last three
· Knight owns the single-season record of made 3-pointers for a freshman at 87, and Murray is only 11 made 3-pointers away from matching that mark. Murray needs just 24 more made 3-pointers to become only the third player in program history to hit 100 or more in a season
· Averaging 3.04 made 3-pointers a game, Murray is on pace to break Jodie Meeks’ school record of 117 made 3-pointers in a season. Should UK play in a full 40 games this season and Murray averaged 3.04 made 3-pointers a game, he would finish with 121 made 3-pointers on the year
Kentucky leads the league with eight total weekly honors this season. In addition to Murray’s and Ulis’ six total accolades, freshmen Skal Labissiere and Isaiah Briscoe have both been tabbed SEC Freshman of the Week once this season.
The Wildcats return to the court on Thursday in Rupp Arena. UK welcomes Tennessee for a 7 p.m. ET tilt, which will air live on ESPN.